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Published: March 20th 2012
How is it even possible that it's been 2 years since I packed up my desk, packed up my room, packed up my bags and left the world of 9-to-5 behind me? Time has flown by and in just a few hours I will be packing up my bags once again, checking in and jumping on a big plane winging its way back to Blighty. In many ways I absolutely cannot wait to set foot on British soil (or tarmac) again, but a part of me will never be ready for this moment.
So in a desperate attempt to calm my brain and organise my emotions at this turbulent time, I thought I'd do a blog on all the highs and lows from my travels. Plus it'll save me answering the “what was your favourite thing on your holidays”
question a million times from everyone I see when I get home! Time away from home:
2 years (minus four weeks in May-June 2010 for weddings, hen-dos and visa medicals). Countries visited:
17 – South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Hong Kong. Shortest time
spent in a country: 2½ hours – Lesotho on a Sani Pass tour. Longest time spent in a country:
11 months – Australia on a working holiday visa.
Now here is where I fail at these things because there is no way I can pick just one
favourite country/place/experience, but I'll try to narrow it down... Favourite countries:
South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand Favourite places:
Bulungula (SA), Zanzibar (Tanzania), my secret paradise island (Malaysia), Sydney (Oz), Luang Prabang (Laos), Ningaloo Reef (Oz), Chiang Mai (Thailand), Hoi An (Vietnam), Fiordland (NZ) Highlights from my travels:
At number one it has to be close encounters with the gorillas of Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda. It still gives me goose bumps 22 months on thinking about how close I was to touching a baby gorilla!
Snorkelling - with turtles and whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia (dreams come true), with black-tip sharks and thousands of colourful fish off the East Coast of Malaysia, and with hundreds of dusky and hectors dolphins at Kaikoura in NZ.
Meeting and making best friends along the way –
more people and places to visit on the next trips!
Discovering paradise...in a few places around the world.
Tramping the Milford Track – stunning wild landscapes that make you feel tiny, but an achievement that makes you feel huge!
Learning to relax and do nothing.
Realising that it is more fun being stressed out in a menial minimum wage job that you can forget about when you go home than bored in a well paid office job.
Seeing the milky way in the bush in Western Australia.
Finally seeing lakes covered in flamingos in Kenya.
Travelling alone - becoming braver and more confident of my own abilities.
Seeing hundreds of beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
Catching Mount Cook reflecting in the other-worldly blue waters of Lake Pukaki, NZ.
Watching the sun glint off the iconic Opera House and Bridge from a ferry on Sydney Harbour.
The highlights would never be so sweet if I had not experienced lows, so for the not so great... Least favourite countries:
Vietnam is probably lowest on my list, but even there I had some great experiences. Unfortunately
they were tainted by finding the people rude and having a lot of money stolen from me. Least favourite places:
Dubai, Hong Kong, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)...having to think quite hard now...ummm.... Worst moments:
Crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam with a stomach bug – why am I always sick on days when I have to cross borders?!
Being insanely bored working at the pub in Carnarvon, Western Australia.
Working 12+ hour shifts and being utterly exhausted at the chocolate cafe in Sydney and the greengrocers in Nelson.
Catching a sleeper bus in Vietnam and finding myself cramped head-to-arse between other backpackers and the floor crammed with hitching locals.
Stressing out trying to get my NZ visa and spending a fortune on a medical for it and then almost not being accepted due to bureaucratic complexities, but it was all worth it in the end!
Standing in a line of African bush ants in Uganda and having them swarm up my legs and bite my bum.
Having some weird spiders or other insects bite my legs 3 times in 2 months and having huge swollen, sore, infected knees
for weeks. Things I will miss from living and travelling abroad:
Having a greater appreciation for everything I see and do when I know my time in a place is limited.
Street food – especially Roti Canai (Malaysia), Pad Thai and those little coconut pancakes (Thailand), fruit shakes and noodle soups (all over SE Asia), egg rolex (Uganda), Hari Krishna samosas (Nelson farmers market, NZ), macaroons (Sydney), fresh spring rolls (Vietnam), bread rolls and cinnamon buns from the Swedish Bakery (Nelson)...
Following the endless summer.
Wearing flip flops whenever possible, not just for a couple of months a year.
Fresh fruit and veges that are either incredibly cheap (Asia and Africa) or free (from work in NZ) and taste ten times better than the stuff imported from thousands of miles away that you get in the UK.
Having a tan all year round – I may not be out there sunning myself on the beach all day (in fact I have a dodgy couriers' tan at the moment) but looking back I think I look ill in pictures taken during UK winters now!
Decent minimum wages, especially in
Australia. Things I will NOT miss from living and travelling abroad:
Living out of a rucksack and constantly searching for where I packed things this time.
Getting up at 5 am to go to work at the greengrocers in Nelson, the farm in Carnarvon, or to catch a ferry or bus or plane.
Sleeping (or trying to) in dorms, especially ones with metal bunks, banging doors and snorers.
Realising I jinx the weather and the British climate manages to catch up with me however far I run!
Not having a fully stocked kitchen with herbs, spices, baking ingredients, tins, freezers etc.
Living with cockroaches and centipedes and ants and jungle rats and a whole host of other wildlife sharing my room!
Constantly starting again and then leaving places just when I'm starting to settle in, make friends and find my favourite hang outs.
Time differences and having to get up early on my days off to phone the other side of the world before they go to bed. Things I am really looking forward to when I get home:
Seeing my awesome Mama and Papa
Catching up with all my friends and family...especially afternoon tea at the Ritz with my lovely ladies.
Not being the only one drinking fifteen cups of tea a day!
Home-cooked food, especially Mum's soups, and being able to bake all the cake recipes I've been collecting.
My wardrobe, or rather the large selection of forgotten clothes within it.
My bookcase full of books I didn't get around to reading before I left.
Seasons – I actually want to see snow and daffodils and wrap up in a coat and boots and stay inside and listen to an autumn gale and really appreciate the days when the sun comes out.
...Planning my next trip!
For of course this is not the end - merely an interlude – there are sure to be many more adventures and travels in my life...starting again in just a couple of weeks with another holiday to my tropical island paradise in Malaysia (if Air Asia ever sort out my tickets). Unfortunately after that the funds will have run dry and I really will have to stay at home in Blighty
and start saving hard again. But the planning is half the fun so I will be getting that atlas out and tracing new routes across it as soon as I can!
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